Jets have close call on LAX runway

LOS ANGELES (AP) An airliner that had just landed at Los Angeles International Airport nearly taxied across a parallel runway on which another jetliner was taking off this week, officials said. The taxiing jet stopped about 50 feet from the...


LOS ANGELES (AP) An airliner that had just landed at Los Angeles International Airport nearly taxied across a parallel runway on which another jetliner was taking off this week, officials said.

The taxiing jet stopped about 50 feet from the edge of the active runway in the incident at 1 p.m. Thursday, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said Friday.

It was the seventh so-called runway incursion this fiscal year at the busy airport, which has four parallel runways two to the north of the central terminal area and two on the south side of the terminals. Aircraft landing on the outer runways have to cross the inner runways to reach the terminal gates.

On Thursday, a WestJet Boeing 737 arriving from Calgary, Canada, had just landed on the outer runway on the airport's north side and was about to cross the inner runway on which a Northwest Airbus A320 was taking off.

The Northwest jet was traveling about 150 mph when the WestJet craft approached its path. The WestJet plane managed to stop in time to avoid a crash.

Gregor said the air traffic controllers who handle landings also tell pilots whether they are cleared to cross runways, and ground controllers direct planes afterward.

But the arriving pilot switched radio frequencies from air traffic control to ground traffic control before receiving final instructions, Gregor said.

The pilot then made a statement to the ground controller about using a taxi route to a gate, and the ground controller assumed the plane had already crossed the inner runway, Gregor said.

The WestJet pilot then apparently saw the Northwest jet on its takeoff roll and asked if clearance had been given, and the ground controller ordered the WestJet plane to stop, Gregor said.

At that point, an automated collision avoidance alarm sounded in the tower, he said.

After a conference of industry and government officials in Washington, D.C., the FAA this week announced a new initiative on safety problems on the nation's runways.

Over the next two months, special teams of regulators, airline and airport personnel will be sent to study the issue at more than 20 airports with the most runway problems. The list was still being drawn up.

Among other steps, the industry-government group also agreed to review cockpit taxi and clearance procedures to reduce the tasks required of pilots while a plane is moving on the ground.

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